Most of the regulatory requirements surrounding the Cannabis industry today are designed to prevent the diversion of product and ultimately to protect public safety. In order for a Cannabis operator to obtain a license, they must satisfy their own state’s requirements.
So, how does a Cannabis operator go about understanding and complying to these complicated regulations?
First of all, it is never advisable to wait for a regulatory agency to perform an inspection. Businesses should perform regular audits and ideally should have an outside consultant specializing in the Cannabis market perform an inspection. It’s always a good idea to get a second set of educated eyes on your environment. Experienced consultants and integrators are likely to see what the novice will not.
In a recent interview with industry consultant Tony Gallo from the Sapphire Risk Advisory Group, we discussed some important topics for Cannabis operators.
Q: Why is it important to work with a consultant or integrator familiar with Cannabis operations?
Tony: First of all, not all states have the same regulations and requirements. For example, one state may require access control points to be monitored by biometric readers while another state may indicate a keypad is sufficient. Having a consultant who knows the ins and outs of the requirements state by state is key to a successful install and the avoidance of hefty fines and/or the acquisition of a license.
Furthermore, the Cannabis environment is unlike any other security environment. Many of the regulations surrounding surveillance indicate you must have a camera pointed to any place cannabis may grow or travel. So, if you have a post in the middle of a room, you might have to have cameras on all four sides if there is any line of sight blockage. Integrators not familiar with the regulations may fail to follow the requirements exactly. Not only can this prevent an operator from attaining a license, it can be costly, both time and money, to fix mistakes made by unprepared or unknowing integrators.
Q: How important is contact with the local authorities?
Tony: It’s very important for any retail location to foster a relationship with local authorities. In my opinion, you should touch base every 90 days making sure they have access to your surveillance system. We advise inviting the police chief and officers into your store. It’s not a bad idea to have contact with the city officials as well.
Q: In a recent article, you mentioned “Doing the Minimum” to meet compliance requirements isn’t good enough. Can you please expand upon that?
Tony: The state is not interested in the profitability of your business. The guidelines and regulations the states set forth may work for them, but in all honesty do not protect the profitability of your business. For example, a gun safe may be all that is required by the state for the Cannabis operation. In my opinion, gun safes have no business in a Cannabis operation. They can easily be breached by cutting into them with tools you can buy from Home Depot. TL rated safes on the other hand provide protection from mechanical, electrical and cutting tools. Just like the jewelry and pawn industries, these are the only safes designed to truly protect your inventory.
In regard to the surveillance system, most states require that you have one. However, many do not give you specifics on image quality. You have to ask yourself, are you buying a surveillance system and actually going to use it for its intended purpose? Or are you simply putting in the cheapest you can find? It’s important to install a quality surveillance system, one which will last over time, store video appropriately and give you access to clear video on playback.
Q: Which compliance focused software solutions do you recommend for the Cannabis industry?
Tony: I like the Vunetrix software. The fact that it will alert you to challenges with your surveillance equipment is important. Cannabis operators need to know their equipment is malfunctioning or being tampered with in real-time. In fact, many operators in many states need to alert the authorities within an hour if there is a problem with the equipment. Vunetrix allows you to automate this notification and alert all relevant parties.
Q: Is there anything else you feel is important for Cannabis operators to know about?
Tony: When operators are looking to hire a design consultancy/integrator to help them design their security system, it’s extremely important they inquire about the experience they have in the Cannabis industry. You don’t want to be the test dummy for them. Choose a security business who has experience and has been successful in the past.
Staying in compliance is an important factor for those wishing to keep their Cannabis license. Most states require timely responses to security breaches. This requires reliable data from security and alarm systems. A data loss from any security system can lead to security holes which can put you and your Cannabis operation at risk. But even worse, non-compliance with security monitoring and reporting requirements can cost you hefty fines and may cost you your business license.
Even though regulations are individualized state by state, there are still compliance violations which are pretty common. Most of these violations are related to the security/surveillance system. Keep in mind, many issues related to security/surveillance system are usually found during reviews of other non-related infractions.
Here are the top violations for Cannabis Operators across North America: retail dispensaries, growth operations and production facilities alike.
- Cameras do not have a clear unobstructed view of all activity without sight blockage.
- All records applicable to the surveillance system are not maintained on the licensed premises.
- The licensee does not have a current list of authorized employees and service personnel who have access to the surveillance system.
- The licensee does not maintain an updated diagram of the surveillance camera locations, direction of coverage and assigned camera numbers.
- The video surveillance system does not have an “active” notification system for interruptions and failures.
To help you better understand how to mitigate risk and stay compliant, we developed this eBook, The Root of Cannabis Security and Compliance. Here, we explain how to minimize failures inside your security/surveillance system. We hope it will spark interest in how a tool that integrates your security network and devices can combine with accurate, real-time alerts to deliver better monitoring and reporting, and therefore ensure security system reliability and compliance.
It’s important to note that each state has its own set of regulations and regulatory fines. To see the regulations for your state/government, please choose from the following list.
Legalized Recreational and Medical Marijuana Regulation for Canada and US States
Legalized Medical Marijuana for US States